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Shooting the Kingdom in the foot
Shooting the Kingdom in the foot
It’s obviously not over yet, even although Suvarnabhumi and Don
Mueang are now open. But, how much more damage can a minority group of
supposedly mainly educated, middle-class people do to the country they
profess to love?
Last Tuesday, the expected announcement was made by the Constitutional Court
in Bangkok that the PPP and two of its supporting parliamentary parties must
disband and that a large number of its representatives, including the Prime
Minister, are to be banned from politics for 5 years. Basically, no surprise
there then, the reason for the court’s decision being inappropriate
behaviour by PPP politicians during last year’s election. Similar, perhaps,
to what millions of USA citizens were discussing, online and offline, after
the election of George Bush to his second, disastrous term as USA president
- or, possibly, the ‘election’ of Russian president Putin’s successor.
However, the USA and Russia are not Thailand - they are both highly
sophisticated and enormously wealthy first world counties. Thailand is an
‘emerging economy’, largely reliant on exports and, to a lesser but
essential extent in the coastal resorts and the north, on tourism.
The invading and closure of the two Bangkok airports by PAD protestors would
not have been permitted to continue to damage the economies of either the
USA or Russia for more than a day. The inability to deal immediately with
the situation by government or police, apart from stranding at least 350,000
passengers and possibly ensuring that they never set foot in the Kingdom
again, has ‘lost face’ worldwide for Thailand as a country. More importantly
still, the stand-off between the warring factions has cost the export sector
at least 3.5 billion baht per day, and will also, no doubt, have an effect
on much-needed long-term foreign investment.
This latest, so-called ‘victory’ by the PAD in its long-running war with the
majority of the Thai people, therefore, is certain to result in an alarming
economic downturn, even before the full effects of a massive loss of
purchasing power in the West hit home hard in Thailand’s export-led economy
In their much trumpeted attack against the Thai version of corruption -
endemic worldwide in its different forms - the PAD have been allowed to
created a country, now in a power vacuum and without even a Prime Minister,
slipping irrevocably into economic disaster.
Tourists, frightened off by exaggerated media reports and ill-thought out
warnings from various foreign offices that the country as a whole is a
dangerous place, are cancelling in their droves.
Now, as a final blow to Thailand’s ‘second city’, Chiang Mai, the ASEAN
summit, recently relocated from Bangkok, has been postponed until March
2009, and will, presumably, be held in the capital as originally intended.
The summit would have provided a brief financial respite for many businesses
in the northern city, already suffering, as are the tourist destinations in
other areas of the Kingdom, one of the worst tourist high seasons in living
It would be naïve to think that the court’s judgement will bring to a close
the difficulties facing the kingdom, even with the airports now open and
essential trade and passenger services re-established. A constitutionally
correct interim government is being formed, and the PPP itself is reported
to be reforming under another name - to which the PAD will, no doubt, also
Stalemate, therefore, must be considered as a long-term result of these last
several months, culminating in the actions and reactions of the last week,
with neither side prepared to put the country’s welfare before its political
convictions. At any time in Thailand’s recent past, the actions of both
warring factions would have been damaging; at this, the most difficult time
for the world economy for more than 80 years, such actions are truly
Surely, it is time to make certain that a similar situation is never allowed
to occur again, no matter what seemingly insoluble political problems lie
ahead. The present government, such as it is, should consider its
responsibility to the Thai people as paramount; as should its opponents, and
take steps to remedy the damage caused, both economically and, most
importantly, to Thailand’s tragically diminished worldwide image.
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